To call “The Book of Moon”a ‘coming-of-age’ story is to be both accurate and woefully incomplete. George Crowder’s deftly-written chronicle of the Landing family, narrated from the teenage-perspective of its youngest member, Moon (yes, that’s Moon Landing), has all of the hallmarks that one expects to find in a good coming-of-age tale: a young man coming to an ever-broader and more richly meaningful understanding of himself, his family and the world as life throws him one curveball after another. In Crowder’s capable hands, we follow young Moon from one revelatory trial and tribulation to the next, watching him wrestle with his own self-concept within the greater context of his parents’ divorce, his older brother’s almost preternatural athleticism, his mother’s sudden and discomfiting sexual regression, the diversity of his friendships, and his own entirely natural wariness and attraction to the mystery of girls. But Crowder’s contribution to this latest and best addition to the genre is that he is telling a coming-of-age story in multiple dimensions. Young Moon aside, almost everyone in this book, including the adults, is coming of age in his or her own way. Each of the Landings is in motion and responding to the new and shifting family dynamic in ways that have cascading consequences for everyone else. This makes for an extraordinarily fun and unpredictable read. It is Crowder’s facility with the larger questions – the ones hanging in the cosmic backdrop against which all of this personal evolution (and devolution) is set – that makes this novel really shine. These are the same philosophical and religious conundrums of humanity against which we are ALL coming of age, all the time, and Crowder uses them brilliantly to frame young Moon’s more intimate and personal development.
This book is disarmingly funny. Crowder’s writing is simple and precise and his message is both provocative and highly resonant. Even the coming-of-age conventions we have all seen and heard so many times before – a child’s take on marital turmoil, parental awkwardness in the netherworld of adolescence, the alien vastness of unexplored sexuality – have here been reimagined back to something that is fresh and novel. Take, for example, this almost obligatory coming-of-age theme: ‘be true to yourself and don’t let others bully you into being ashamed of who you are’. How many times have we seen authors and film makers check that box in roughly the same way? But Crowder manages to capture the point originally and succinctly in the casual, off-the-cuff advice Moon’s alcoholic father gives to his oldest son, Moss: “Son, this is a tough lesson, but it’s time for you to learn it. What other people think of you is none of your business.” That’s original. That’s going to stick; for Moss, for Moon and for me.
I would be remiss to end this review without a nod of appreciation for the quality of the audible version of this book. I divide my reading diet fairly equally between paper, electrons and sound waves and have been an Audible consumer for decades. I have listened to narrations that were truly sublime, truly awful and everything in between. In “The Book of Moon”, the narration of all characters, both genders, all ages and ethnicities by narrator Robert Fass was spot on. I can and do highly recommend “The Book of Moon” in any format.